Back In The Burg...

Back In The Burg...

Mike Barko's update reveals impactful Gospel-sharing experiences since returning from Ocean City. About 100 people embraced faith in Christ through downtown and Route 33 outreach. Mike addresses common misconceptions, guiding individuals to grasp the Gospel's core. Stories of Phyllis, Terrance, Emily, and more showcase lives changed by understanding salvation through faith alone. Mike's patient engagement transforms misconceptions, like Laura and Donna's reliance on works. A youth group's receptive response highlights the significance of timely outreach. The update concludes with gratitude for support, emphasizing God's glory in these faith-transforming stories.


Mike Barko

7/24/202116 min read

The good Lord has blessed since we returned from Ocean City over one month ago. We have seen around 100 people profess Christ as Savior since that time. We have been sharing downtown in front of the courthouse and holding the cross on route 33 in Harrisonburg. We also share wherever we go, when the opportunity presents itself.

Let me start with the most recent stories and work back from there. Favorite pics and stories follow.


I met Phyllis walking across the median on route 33 as I was holding the cross last Friday. She initially told me that she was '100% sure of Heaven because Jesus was in her heart.'

The more that I share, the more I am discovering people who give me this answer who really don't understand the Gospel. Ask them this question, "Is Jesus God?"

If there is a hesitation, there is most likely a problem. Many confess that He is the Son of God, but very few understand that He is God.

Like many others, Phyllis confessed that Jesus is the Son of God. When I asked if He was God, she said...

'I don't know.'

We went through the Trinity...


"Is the Father God?"...'Yes'.
"Is the Son God?"...(Pause)...(Smile)...'Yes.'
"Is the Spirit God?"....'Yes'.

"God the Father planned it."
"God the Son did it."
"God the Spirit applies it."

"So, is Jesus God?"...'Yes'.

Remember what Jesus said in John 8:24,

"...for unless you believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins." (There is no 'he' in the original Greek)

When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, He said to them...

"...I AM, do not be afraid." (John 6:20 LSV, I AM in the Greek)

The one we are most familiar with...

"Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM." (John 8:58)

In order for people to be saved, they must trust in Christ alone: (1) His person (2) His work.

Continuing with Phyllis...

"Have we all sinned?"...'Yes'.
"What is the punishment for our sin?"...'Hell'.
"So, what do we deserve?"...'Forgiveness.'

I am amazed at the number of professing Christians who think that we deserve forgiveness. There is no such thing as 'forgiveness deserved.' The very nature of forgiveness is that it is something that we don't deserve.

I asked Phyllis if she had ever gotten a speeding ticket...'Yes'. If she stood before the judge and shouted, 'I deserve forgiveness!', what would the judge say?

Right here, Phyllis' entire countenance changed and she said...'I get it'

As I went through the law with her, she confessed to breaking all of the commandments...(liar, thief, adulterer, murderer, blasphemer) In fact, she spoke up and said, 'I have hate in my heart now.'

Phyllis told me that she was currently at a women's shelter because of an abusive relationship.

As I continued, I asked her...

"Is there anything you can do to get out of God's electric chair?"

'Please forgive me...I'm sorry...I'll try to do better.'

I asked her..."What do those answers have in common?...'me...I'm...I'll''

When Phyllis saw that she was trusting herself, again she said...

'I get it.'

After a few more illustrations, we came to the end of the presentation. I asked her who she was trusting when we started...

'Not the right one.'

Phyllis wanted to trust in Christ alone and prayed accordingly...

'He came into my heart.'

When I asked her how her heart felt, she said...

'Really big.'

She prayed at the end...

'I love you and I thank you. Please guide me.'

When we understand...

(1) Who we are...'guilty criminals before a Holy God.'
(2) What we deserve...'the wrath of God forever.'
(3) What God did for us...'taking that wrath for us.'
(4) What God has given us...'eternal life forever.'

Then, and only then...EVERYTHING CHANGES.

Because she was with the women's shelter, I did not get a picture.

Not too long after came Terrance. He was initially 100% sure because he 'believed in God.'

Just like Phyllis had an initial answer that appeared okay, so with Terrance. So I asked him, 'What do you believe about God that gets you into Heaven?"...'He's real.'

I responded, "Believing that God is real is wonderful. However, even the demons know that. What specifically do you need to believe about God that will get you into Heaven?"

Terrance had no clue.

So I asked him if he was a 'good person' and he said 'yes'. We took the good person test and, just like the rest of us, he failed miserably.

Terrance now knew that he was guilty and the penalty was Hell. What would get him out of God's electric chair?

'Please forgive me'.

I used the speeding ticket illustration and he understood that the judge would not let him go unless he paid the fine. ($300 in his case)

"What would pay his fine with God (spiritual death), so that God could forgive him?"

Here's the problem...

If Terrance paid the fine (spiritual death), he would end up in Hell. What was his way out?

Terrance saw no way out.

It was then I explained that God had already sat in his electric chair 2000 years ago in the person of His Son. God would justify Terrance if he humbled himself and only trusted Him. If he tried to justify himself (pride), God would not justify him.

When did Terrance want to trust in Christ alone?


So we prayed and he told me...

'I repented...I gave it all to Him.'

He told God...

'Thanks for taking my sins away.'


Two weeks ago, I was having lunch with Pam and Alan Foster, dear friends and ministry board members. We had occasion to share with our waitress Emily.

At the end of our meal, I asked her if she wanted a free bracelet. I explained that I wanted to share the meaning of the colors with her. Did she have 5 -10 minutes for me to share?

She did. In fact, about halfway through the presentation, she pulled a chair up and sat down to really listen!

Here is what is interesting and why I share this with you. Just like Phyllis and Terrance, Emily's initial answer appeared solid.

She initially told me that she was 100% sure because she believed in God. Even more, when I asked her what she meant by that, she told me...

'Jesus died for my sins.'

Emily was 100% because Jesus died for her sins. That is a textbook answer. However, because I am seeing this more and more, I decided to ask her one more question...

"Is Jesus God?"

With Phyllis, this was a question mark. With Emily, it was a 'no'. After explaining the Trinity, Emily was able to see that Jesus was God.

The next red flag came with regards to the penalty for our sin.

Emily had no clue. At that point I knew that I needed to share the Gospel with her.

We really need to explain and reinforce what salvation really means. Paul Washer says that we never graduate from the Gospel. I see that truth all the time.

After I shared the law with her, Emily saw that she would be guilty. Then I shared the penalty...Hell. What could she do to get out of God's electric chair?


People use this word all of the time. Ask the person what it means.

'Admit my sins.'

I used the speeding ticket illustration with Emily. Would admitting her guilt pay for the crime? No. What would pay for her spiritual death penalty?


That is a beautiful thing, but that won't pay. Again, so many professing Christians really don't understand.

I preached Christ. He had already sat in her chair. Emily understood that she was trusting in herself.

When did she want to trust in Christ alone?

'All the time...starting now.'

Emily prayed with me and said...

'He took my sins away...I let Him...(God)...I love you...Thanks for taking my sins away.'

I really wanted to hug her but I wasn't sure if she would be comfortable with that. Just then she spoke up...

'Can I give you a hug?' (Amen!)

She then told Pam, Alan and myself how much this meant to her and thanked us over and over.



Here is my dear brother Paul Collins who has been helping me hold the cross on Fridays. One day I showed up and 'just didn't have it'. Seeing him hold this sign high, while waving and smiling at the cars, was music to my soul. Thanks Paul!


Paul brings a speaker powered by a gas generator. On this same day a Gaither Gospel song came on the internet. The Spirit came and I played it continuously for over an hour.

The joy bubbling over in Paul and in me went out into the cars as they were passing by. I wish you could have seen it! The joy was contagious and the smiles, honks and waves were abundant. Over at the gas station, a father was rocking his baby back and forth to the music!


Whenever my dear brother and friend Rob Gilmer helps me downtown it is always a shot in the arm. Here is Rob praying with a man and leading another woman to Christ. Rob told me that she had been to church for quite some time but never had understood the Gospel.


Brandon told me that he was going to Heaven because 'I am righteous.' I asked him why he was righteous?...'I work hard.'

This is the state of many of the lost...

"Nothing damns a man but his own righteousness, nothing saves a man but the righteousness of Christ." (Charles Spurgeon)

The law showed Brandon that he wasn't righteous, and the Gospel revealed the righteousness of Christ.

Brandon chose the latter this day...

'I trust in Him and Him alone.'


I met Mike and Millie two years ago downtown. I saw them again last week. They were excited to tell me they just got married.

Millie has six months to live. She is on dialysis and needs a kidney. The dialysis is interfering with her heart function and will eventually have to be stopped. Mike is hoping to give her his kidney.

Mike was thinking he would get into Heaven because he had a 'good heart.' Millie didn't fully understand the Gospel.

What a blessing to lead this dear couple to Jesus. God please extend Millie's days! Amen!


Ashley and Alphonso both said they were going to Heaven '100%.' Why?

Alphonso...'I believe.'
Ashley...'I just know.'

How did Ashley know? (I had to dig a little.)

'I'm a good person.'

I focused primarily on Ashley, but I think Alphonso was receiving as well. Both listened attentively as I shared the law and the Gospel with them. Both wanted to trust in Christ alone...

Ashley...'He saved me...(God)...I believe.'
Alphonso...'He saved me...(God)...Thank you for accepting me, saving me, and loving me.'

Then they told me...

'Thank you for that! Thank you for taking time to share with us today. I'm glad we stopped to listen. Thank you.'


Sometimes while I am sharing downtown, I will offer people a bracelet who pull up in their cars to the stop sign with their window down. Many get excited and pull their car over to the side of the road to hear the message.

Alex and Anthony were from Ohio. They both initially said they were 100% sure of Heaven because of Christ. They mentioned Christ plus a few other things.

Was their salvation (1) Christ (2) themselves or (3) both? They told me (3) both.

What was their part?...'share the Gospel.'

I asked them, "Is sharing the Gospel part of your salvation?"...'Yes'.

Many people are right here. They forget that works are a result of their salvation, not a part of it.

The proof of this right understanding was the immediate fruit that each felt in their heart when the trusted on Christ alone...

Alex...'Fulfilled...Happy...Loved...He saved me because I believe.'

Anthony...'Fulfilled...At ease...He saved me because I trusted Him.'


Ernie was a 'good ole' country boy. Why was God going to let him into Heaven?

'I ain't done nothing too awful wrong.'

When Ernie realized that he had 'done something too awful wrong', he wanted to trust in Christ alone...

'He turned my life around...(God)...I love you...Thanks for taking my life.'


Jennifer got tears in her eyes when I told her that Jesus 'drank her hell on the cross and didn't leave one drop for her.'

What was in the cup?

The wrath of God...Spiritual death.

"And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)

Propitiation means 'satisfaction'.

What was satisfied? The wrath of God.

'He paid for my sins. I believe and trust in Him. (My heart feels)...enlightened.' (That's a smile!)


Sadie understood. Kevin didn't. She waited patiently as I shared with him. Listen to what he said after he trusted Christ alone...

'He paid for my sins and gave me eternal love. I have accepted His love and He gave me peace. (My heart feels) full of Christ.'


Zachary told me I had shared with him 13 years the exact same spot...when he was holding his son who was a 1 year old baby.

Here he was today with his son (Avery) now 14 years old!

At one point during the presentation, Avery looked angry. Thankfully he softened and came around. Both wanted to trust in Christ alone...

Dad...'He forgave me for my sins because I am believing in Him.'

Son...'He changed me. You're one of his angels He is speaking through. (This definitely was a pleasant surprise). I am forgiven. (My heart is) happy.'


Ted was homeless and hungry. He asked for some money for food. I told him...

"Give me 10 - 15 minutes of your time first."

Like almost everyone else, Ted was trusting in himself. After hearing the Gospel, Ted wanted to trust in Christ alone...

'He gave me the Word of God. I found something I didn't have. I finally understand the truth. (My heart) has peace.'

I gave him $10 for lunch.


Shoshanni was definitely 'vexed in the book of Galatians.' She wasn't 100% sure of going to Heaven because...

'I have to surrender more...I have to give him more.'

Now, yes, we all are constantly surrendering and yielding things to the Lord, I get that. However, here with Shoshanni, there was a 'fretful anxiety' as she spoke these words.

Initially she acknowledged that salvation was not by works, but then she began to talk about how she needed to work to be saved. Shoshanni was vexed and confused.

The Spirit really came as I shared and He shined His light and truth upon this precious daughter.

Sometimes these 'works' people are very proud and get angry at grace. Not Shoshanni. Amen.

After understanding and praying she told me...

'He showed me His love for me to explain something I needed to understand. I was leaning on self and works being tormented by it. In order to completely surrender, I needed to surrender to the cross which gave me the power to be filled with His love for me. (My heart feels) very light, free, and happy...intensely incredible.' (Because she surrendered to the Gospel, she belongs to Him.)

Here is a 5 minute testimony by Shoshanni...

Michael was hopeless. He was 0% sure that he would go to Heaven. I actually encouraged him that he was ahead of most people.

People who think they are saved can't get truly saved until they first know they are not really saved. The truth must come first.

Michael knew he was not saved. This is a great start.

It is a joy to share with people like this. Jesus loved the company of sinners over the Pharisees for this very reason. No pretense.

Michael had no problem understanding that he was 'not good'. There is a Gospel tract which reads...

'Good news for bad people...Bad news for good people.'

Michael really seemed to understand and surrender to the message of grace. It was a beautiful time sharing with him.

'He saved me by listening and letting God into my heart. I feel better. I've been to church all my life but nobody ever explained it like that.


What did Kayla say after hearing the Gospel and trusting in Christ alone?

'He took over.' (What more needs to be said?)


Laura was '50-50' she would go to Heaven because 'He loves me'. Why did God love Laura?...

'My actions.'

God requires a perfect life to get into Heaven. Are your actions perfect? Are mine?

Was His (Christ)?


My righteousness is Jesus life.

My debt was paid by Jesus death.

My weary load was borne by Him.

And He alone can give me rest.

(Words from song 'Not in Me' by Sovereign Grace)

Laura wanted to trust in Christ alone...

'He came into my life, gave me eternal life, saved me and took my spot...(God)...Thanks for everything you've done for taking my spot.'

'I like the way you broke that down....It makes sense to me.'


Donna was a very sincere Catholic who was 'worshiping God and trying her best to be good' in order to go to Heaven.

After taking the good person test (liar, thief, adulterer, murderer, blasphemer), I asked Donna how she did?...


Sometimes it takes several times for a person to see that they are 'not good enough.' Thankfully this person was patient and praise God that I was too!

In the courtroom, in the electric chair, Donna kept coming back to...

'Please forgive me.'

She needed to see the work of Christ. It had already been done. He had already sat in her chair. He had already paid her fine...paid in full.

She needed to trust in that alone.

Mercifully, after awhile, she understood, prayed, and told me...

'He saved me. I found a new me in you (God)! (My heart feels) amazing...warm...different...more spiritual. I am believing and am really sure.'

Here is a 2 minute testimony by Donna...



Our church preached a message on reaching the lost before we did a week of outreach. It was amazing what happened immediately after hearing that message on Sunday morning...

On the way to the gym, in the parking lot, before I even parked my car...

I recognized a young man walking in the parking lot that I had met several months previous. However, I had not seen him in quite some time and he had lost a ton of weight.

Aspen was excited to see me in the parking lot. This was the first time he had returned to the gym after having been gone for several months.

Aspen is only in his 20's. He had been in the hospital for over a month and had almost died with COVID-19. They had put him in a coma to save his life and he had been breathing through a tracheotomy. Aspen had to learn how to walk again.

Well, as you can imagine, he was eager to hear the Gospel. He did tell me that he had 'made some changes' and was 70% sure that he would go to Heaven.

After hearing about his sin and Christ, Aspen wanted to put all of his trust in Christ alone and prayed accordingly.

'He saved me...(God)...Thanks for coming into my life.'



Let me close with two stories that happened right after my trip to Ocean City...

On my return trip home I was blessed to share with the congregation of Hatcher's Memorial Baptist Church in Bristow, Virginia. They are a beautiful, very generous, Christ honoring community.

They wanted me to teach them how we share the Gospel so I basically went through the presentation with them. Our time was blessed.

After the service was over came another great blessing ...

As I was preparing to leave, I met a young teen up in front of the church. He said he was 75% sure of Heaven 'because he was doing his best to obey the commandments'.

I figured that he had already heard the message I preached so I started to give him an abridged version. Then he told me that he had been helping with the children during the service and had not heard my message at all!

Halfway through the Gospel presentation as I shared, when he understood that he had been trusting himself and not Christ, he spoke up...

'I get it now.' (His countenance changed.)

Wyatt wanted to trust in Christ alone and prayed...

'Thanks for coming into my life. I trust you.'


Just two days after I returned home, I received notice that the Ocean City house was available for another week. I really wanted to go.

However, my body was telling me to rest. I submitted, albeit reluctantly.

God gave me a blessing at the cross that day.

I have been at the cross now for over ten years and have never shared with a group this large. This is one of the reasons I like going to Ocean City and was regretting not being able to go again.

The good Lord sent these ten youth with the 'mom and dad' chaperones. They were from a high school out of the area and were staying at a local hotel getting ready for a track competition at J.M.U.

'Mom and Dad' gave me permission to share with the whole group. When they knew what I was doing, I had their full support.

Most if not all of these kids said 'yes' to the invitation and wanted to trust in Christ alone.

They all thanked me over and over...